Few childhood experiences are as indelible and comforting as Saturday morning cartoons. Virtually every generation offsprung* from the Baby Boomers forward was partially raised by the nurturing hand of Saturday morning cartoons. They held the all-important sway of the bombastic child’s mind during the waking hours of the weekend, and the promise of 48 more hours of scholastic-free bliss to come.
The late 80s, however, initiated the decline of the Saturday morning cartoon. A wide array of reasons lent the cause: first run syndication programs like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers usurped weekly programming’s popularity, live-action shows such as Saved By the Bell became more commonplace, and edgier cartoons like The Simpsons found their own place on prime-time TV. But like any transitory landscape, the genre’s redefinition would leave a cultural footprint firmly etched in the psyche of youth for time everlasting. The footprint for those children of the 80s was the sound of Lorenzo Music.
The name may not be household, but the character his voice will forever be linked to is. From 1988 to 1994, CBS aired one of the longest-running cartoon programs in Saturday morning history, Garfield and Friends. And the sleepy, listless voice of the world’s favorite overweight tabby: Lorenzo Music.
Born Gerald David Music in Brooklyn, NY in 1937, Music entered show business as a writer and performer for late 60s variety programs such as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He went on to co-create The Bob Newhart Show and continued writing for the Mary Tyler Moore spinoff series, Rhoda (where he also provide the disembodied voice of Carlton the Doorman). In 1982, Music was cast as the lead for the first of what would be more than a dozen Garfield specials. Although his voice would become synonomous with the fat feline, it would not be the actor’s only vocal claim to fame.
Capitalizing on the success of 1984’s mega-smash, Ghostbusters, DiC Enterprises launched The Real Ghostbusters (not to be confused with Filmations The Ghostbusters; there were no ghost busting apes in the Real Ghotsbusters), which aired on ABC beginning in 1986. If Dr. Peter Venkman’s voice from the first two seasons sounds strangely more than reminiscent, fear not; it is, indeed, Lorenzo Music. Ironically, some 20 years later, Bill Murray, who portrays Dr. Venkman in the Ghostbuster film franchise, would go on to provide the voice of Garfield for two live-action films.
If both of these aforementioned cartoons proved too sardonic for your parents’ liking, you might have been free to watch Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears. Music provided the voice of Tummi Gummi, an overweight and lethargic Gummi Bear who enjoyed above all things eating. Must have been a stretch for the vocal thespian.
And barring any complete denial of animated television programing from the 80s, you may remember Larry the Crash Test Dummy, whose gangly bodied suffered every malady a doll being slammed in to wall at 40 mph could. That was Lorenzo Music.
Sadly, none of these charming and iconic cartoon characters can be brought back to life today; Lorenzo Music lost his in 2004 from complications with lung and bone cancer. Of all the actors so closely associated with the decade – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy – Music likely appears on few lists. But considering his far-reaching and instantly recognizable timbre, Retrobacktive wishes to salute a true gem within the annals of the 80s: Mr. Lorenzo Music.